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The 50 Best Horror Movies on Hulu Right Now

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In terms of comparing the major streaming services, it’s easy to think of Hulu as “the TV-focused one,” but that’s not entirely fair—the service also has a healthy number of movies at any given time, although its overall library is nowhere near the size of Netflix’s or (especially) Amazon Prime’s. Still, horror geeks who happen to have a Hulu subscription actually have access to a pretty decent library of quality films.

Kudos to Hulu for actually creating a horror-specific genre subcategory since the last time we compiled this list, when they confusingly had “horror and suspense” jumbled together into one that contained the likes of both The Babadook and Snowden. Now at least everything you see when you visit the “horror” tab makes sense being there. They’ve also added a considerable number of worthwhile titles to the library since last we checked, drawing into a dead heat with Netflix. The addition of the first 8 entries in the classic Friday the 13th series certainly doesn’t hurt here.

You may also want to consult the following horror-centric lists:

The 100 best horror films of all time.
The 100 best vampire movies of all time.
The 50 best zombie movies of all time.
The 60 best horror movies on Amazon Prime
The 50 best movies about serial killers
The 50 best slasher movies of all time
The 50 best ghost movies of all time
The 50 Best Horror Movies Streaming on Netflix
The 50 Best Movies About Serial Killers

So without any further ado, here are the 50 best horror movies streaming on Hulu:


50. What We Become
Year: 2015
Director: Bo Mikkelson
The thing that limits a film the likes of What We Become is its familiarity. A tight-knit family drama zombie movie, it follows a single family unit as they experience the tropes we’ve seen in nearly every “serious” indie zombie film of the last 15 years. Even the title is taken directly from one of the trade paperbacks of The Walking Dead comic, whose modern, Romero-esque outlook feels like heavy inspiration for the film. It’s not to say that it isn’t effective—it’s just a question of what still remains to be said with a film about a small family trapped inside their home by zombies that hasn’t already been said. What We Become is well shot and handles its minimal story effectively, but it struggles somewhat to justify its own existence. Its third act, thankfully, does ratchet up both the tension and action, paying off in some effective bloodletting, though it takes a bit too long to arrive. It’s a film that is very indicative of the state of modern indie zombie films, both in the U.S. and abroad: competent, fairly entertaining, but struggling for purpose. —Jim Vorel


49. The ABCs of Death
Year: 2012
Directors: Various
The ABCs of Death is an anthology film with a great premise: 26 horror shorts about death from up-and-coming directors, one for each letter of the alphabet. Unfortunately, the results are as scattershot as you would expect, and for every good entry there are two uninteresting, confusing or just plain “gross for gross sake” ones. The ABCs of Death is worth seeing, however, for three entries from three horror directors still establishing themselves today: Nacho Vigalondo’s “A is for Apocalypse,” Marcel Sarmiento’s “D is for Dogfight” and Adam Wingard’s “Q is for Quack.” The “D” entry is probably the star of the show, a grungy, uncompromising, brutal inversion of a typical story between a man and his dog. It’s beautiful looking to boot. —Jim Vorel


48. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Year: 1989
Director: Rob Hedden
The slasher genre was well and truly out of steam by the time 1989 rolled around, and not even the Friday the 13th series could maintain any kind of momentum. There are kernels in Jason Takes Manhattan of what could probably have been an entertaining installment in the series, transplanting the standard Jason formula to New York City rather than the familiar locales of Crystal Lake, but the film’s budget doesn’t allow for it to explore any of the possibilities the Manhattan setting would potentially offer. Instead, the whole “Manhattan as a draw” portion of the film comes off like a bait-and-switch, as the vast majority of the film actually takes place on a suspiciously basement-heavy boat full of high school students that is slowly steaming in the direction of New York Harbor. These scenes are interminable, highlighted only by the presence of a protagonist who is haunted by a childhood encounter she had with … child Jason? It’s a shame, given that the film picks up substantially by the time Jason (played with nice physicality by Kane Hodder) is striding through Times Square, beating up street toughs. Unfortunately, it’s too little, too late. —Jim Vorel


47. Ghost Stories
Year: 2017
Director: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Ghost Stories, a joint directorial effort by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, who adapted the movie from the successful stage play they wrote together back in the late 2000s, isn’t workaday horror hackery. For most of its duration, it’s confidently made, atmospheric and deliciously macabre, a movie that feels like a throwback to yesteryear’s horror without consciously acting like a throwback. Those acquainted with horror history might detect echoes of Nicolas Roeg, Robin Hardy, Michael Powell and the productions of Hammer Films, that beloved British outlet of all things gothic and spooky, but even knowledgeable horror geeks must trace Ghost Stories’ influences on a molecular level. They’re ingrained instead of inserted. It’s the difference between knowing homage and unconscious referencing. Nyman and Dyson love horror. You can sense that love in Ghost Stories’ embrace of classic multi-narrative structure, wrapping a triptych of horror subcategories around the labors of its lonely hero, Professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman), a man who tasks himself with exposing paranormal charlatans. (Think John Edwards, Theresa Caputo, or Ed and Lorraine Warren.) It’s tough being the guy who charges the stage during televised psychic readings to rain on the audience’s parade, but that’s Goodman’s life. Then he gets a letter from Charles Cameron, a famed paranormal investigator and Goodman’s boyhood idol. Now decrepit and living alone in a van by the ocean, Cameron challenges Goodman to explain three supernatural cases he couldn’t solve himself. We’re off to the races, but we always come back to sad sack Goodman, who throughout his investigations can’t help noticing weird phenomena in between visiting subjects (notably recurring and increasingly abrupt encounters with an ominous parka-clad figure). He’s haunted, too, but mostly by his memories of growing up with his rigid, borderline abusive and presently deceased father. That’s the hook on which Ghost Stories hangs its ghastly musings, the thing we expect the film to circle back to once Goodman completes his inquiries and renders his verdict on the authenticity of each incident. As an abstraction, that sounds like a stairway leading to Frank Capra levels of sentimentality: By wrestling with his skeptical biases, Goodman will confront his buried feelings about his dad and reconcile with his past. Maybe it’s for the best that the movie never goes there. —Andy Crump


46. Mom and Dad
Year: 2018
Director: Brian Taylor
In Mom and Dad, Nicolas Cage whimpers, explodes, hollers, spasms, grins, gurns and weeps. Each line he lets escape from his mouth as if he’s exploring every crevice of every word, ultimately settling on an emotion or tone somehow slightly off from the way any typical person would use language. He brandishes power tools (“Sawzall…saws…all,” he repeats, mantra for no one) and breaks out in stab wounds like he’s solely composed of rubbery flesh and blood; he is an anthropomorphic double-take; he is finally embracing his male-pattern baldness. Though by now, in 2018, Cage’s appearance in a film is never as rare or as compelling as it was when last he worked with writer-director Brian Taylor on 2012’s Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance—he is a punchline to a good joke we’ve willingly forgotten—Cage is still an American (er, National) treasure, a Hollywood actor who no longer makes any sense as a Hollywood actor. Mom and Dad does nothing to refute that. About a case of mass hysteria breaking out in an upper class suburb, causing parents to viciously attack and murder their children, the film is surprisingly tame considering the pedigree it promises. Cage plays Brent Ryan, an office drone suffering a mid-life crisis, spending most of his time avoiding his wife Kendall (Selma Blair), falling asleep while watching porn at work and refusing to sell the Trans Am gathering dust in his garage. Their daughter, aimless rebel Carly (Anne Winters), steals money from her mom to buy designer drugs, generally hating everything about her family despite her mom’s pleas to be more thoughtful. Carly’s younger brother Josh (Zackary Arthur) is of indeterminate age, young enough to idolize his dad but old enough to seemingly understand that Brent is probably one beer away from snapping and murdering everyone at his office. Being a parent is hard: You love your kids, you hate your kids, you repress your dreams and desires so completely that they metastasize, primed to destroy your life from the inside out. You do the Hokey Pokey, turn yourself around, and then you smash the pool table you just built to bits with a sledgehammer. —Dom Sinacola


45. Odd Thomas
Year: 2013
Director: Stephen Sommers
2016 was a year we lost numerous Hollywood icons, but the loss of Anton Yelchin is especially bitter, as he was only 27. The Star Trek star had already put together one hell of an incredible portfolio, and he radiated an innate likability that could well have made him an A-list leading man in Hollywood. With that said, Odd Thomas isn’t exactly his best film, but Yelchin is most definitely the best thing in this movie, playing the title character of “Odd,” a young man with abilities to both see and fight restless ghosts and malevolent spirits. The script is jumbled and has a tendency to loop back in on itself repeatedly, but Yelchin is charming, and it’s buoyed by a fun supporting role from Willem Dafoe as the unusually open-minded town sheriff—refreshing, given that this type of character almost never is helpful to the protagonist. It’s not without its problems, but it deserved better at the American box office than the “bomb” status it earned. —Jim Vorel


44. Children of the Corn
Year: 1984
Director: Fritz Kiersch
It’s not often that the adults should be the ones afraid to watch a horror movie with kids, but it would be hard not to look at kids differently after 1984’s Children of the Corn, one of the higher-profile entries in horror’s “kids kill all the adults” subgenre. The film focuses on a cult in a fictional Gatlin, Nebraska, led by child preacher Isaac, who is convinced by an entity called He Who Walks Behind the Rows that all adults over 18 should get the axe. We see Burt and Vicky (played by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) struggle to escape the small town after driving through and hitting a young, dying boy with their car. There’s plenty of slasher scares and creepy visuals, but like any good horror movie, it’s a commentary on society, man, and like Lord of the Flies before it, this Stephen King-based story looks toward our kids to point out the oddities of our culture (including an obsession with religion). —Tyler Kane


43. mother!
Year: 2017
Director: Darren Aronofsky 
Try as you might to rationalize Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, mother! does not accept rationalization. There’s little reasonable ways to construct a single cohesive interpretation of what the movie tries to tell us. There is no evidence of Aronosfky’s intention beyond what we’ve intuited from watching his films since the ’90s—as well as how often Aronofsky loves to talk about his own work, which is usually worth avoiding, because Aronofsky likes thinking the movie is about everything. The most ironclad comment you can make about mother! is that it’s basically a matryoshka doll layered with batshit insanity. Unpack the first, and you’re met immediately by the next tier of crazy, and then the next, and so on, until you’ve unpacked the whole thing and seen it for what it is: A spiritual rumination on the divine ego, a plea for environmental stewardship, an indictment of entitled invasiveness, an apocalyptic vision of America in 2017, a demonstration of man’s tendency to leech everything from the women they love until they’re nothing but a carbonized husk, a very triggering reenactment of the worst house party you’ve ever thrown. mother! is a kitchen sink movie in the most literal sense: There’s an actual kitchen sink here, Aronofsky’s idea of a joke, perhaps, or just a necessarily transparent warning. mother!, though, is about everything. Maybe the end result is that it’s also about nothing. But it’s really about whatever you can yank out of it, its elasticity the most terrifying thing about it. —Andy Crump


42. Proxy
Year: 2013
Director: Zack Parker
If the measuring stick for a “horror film” is that it makes you feel vaguely unnerved the entire time it’s playing, then Proxy is certainly successful. Zack Parker’s unconventional debut feature feels in brief stretches like some kind of bizarre masterwork of squirm-inducing, uncomfortable imagery, but it eventually unravels into an overly confusing, portentous morass. It’s a film about many things—motherhood, relationships, mental illness and concepts that are almost too abstract to grasp in a conventional horror movie plot. The acting is uneven, but there’s some really disturbing, fascinating stuff in there, all beginning with the shocking opening scene, which I won’t spoil for you, but it’s one a hard-to-watch sequence that will stick with you for a long time. —Jim Vorel


41. Splinter
Year: 2008
Director: Toby Wilkins
Splinter begins with a strong, though bordering on cliché, hook. Two (naturally, young) people driving from a campsite spot a woman in the road and are soon carjacked by her hick cohort. When forced to drive away, they hit and kill something monstrous in the road, quickly combining both the “something’s in the woods” theme with the less politically correct but frequently more frightening “rednecks are serial killers” concept. From here, though, the film becomes less interesting, as the cast ends up locked into a gas station, fighting to escape If Splinter incorporates a third type of horror film, it’s the zombie movie. Whenever the monster strikes someone with its quills (which, incidentally, should’ve been the title for the movie: Quills), the victim becomes a creature as well. The film especially emulates the disembodied hand concept of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, and with some good reason. For how low-budget the production clearly is, the design on the monster is inspired and doesn’t look like anything else out there. It’s a case of better-than-average production design elevating a film out of forgettable territory. —Sean Gandert


40. Survival of the Dead
Year: 2009
Director: George A. Romero
In a lot of ways, 2005’s Land of the Dead still feels like the last “true” entry in director George A. Romero’s career-spanning series of zombie epics, in the sense that it was the last to indisputably justify its own reason for existence and further the overall canon of a world consumed by the undead. 2007’s Survival of the Dead was clearly too much of a response to the surge in gimmicky found footage horror films experienced in the explosive wake of Paranormal Activity, but in his final film, 2009’s Survival of the Dead, you can at least feel Romero attempting to tell a more genuine story. The thing is, that story had become achingly recognizable, some 41 years after the original Night of the Living Dead—but Romero was still there, decades and decades later, banging on the same themes of disunity and man’s inability to put aside old hurts for the sake of a common good. If anything, the island setting and feuding Irish families almost make Land of the Dead feel like what Romero really wanted to do was to tell some kind of zombie period piece, but he was instead constrained by the tie-in to the previous movie in the series. Ultimately, Survival of the Dead may not do anything to turn over new ground—aside from the fact that it features the oddity of a zombie riding a horse, at one point—but it’s competently made, if a bit familiar and low rent. —Jim Vorel


39. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
Year: 1985
Director: Danny Steinmann
Slasher sequels of the 1980s so often grappled with the same existential question: “How do we allow our protagonists to triumph over the killer, or even kill the killer, but still bring that marketable murderer back for another installment?” With Friday the 13th, the problem was only exacerbated by the intentional finality of a fourth installment that was literally titled The Final Chapter, complete with Corey Feldmen taking a machete to Jason’s skull. Still, the box office demands what it demands, and the Friday the 13th series, like Halloween 3: Season of the Witch before it, came back for an installment without its central character—or more accurately, someone shows up wearing the hockey mask in A New Beginning, but it turns out to be a Jason copycat killer. Suffice to say, that’s enough to turn off many fans entirely, although there’s a vocal contingent of A New Beginning defenders out there as well who claim the film is among the best in the series. In truth, A New Beginning is a perfectly competent mid-’80s slasher, with some goofy characters, decent kills and a uniquely meanspirited and misanthropic tone that tends to be divisive among horror fans. Which is fitting, because everything about A New Beginning is divisive. It will always be the black sheep of the series. —Jim Vorel


38. V/H/S
Year: 2012
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence
As has been said before, horror anthologies are, by nature, almost always uneven in terms of quality, but if there’s one constant, it’s usually that fewer stories is better than many. That’s one of the factors that helps V/H/S work better than, say, the unrestrained insanity of The ABCs of Death. It also bears a more coherent framing narrative, featuring segments by some of the best young directors in horror, such as Adam Wingard and Ti West, but it’s ultimately David Bruckner, who also directed the genre-bending 2007 horror flick The Signal, who steals the show with his segment, “Amateur Night.” That story, about a group of douche-y guys who bring home a strange girl from the bar and get much more than they bargained for when she turns out to be a literal monster, eventually received a full-on feature film treatment under the title of Siren. As for which of the first two V/H/S entries is strongest, though, it’s a bit of a toss-up. Both of them have highlight segments and a few downers. The one thing there’s no doubt about is that both of them are fun, and much better than the abortive 2014 second sequel, V/H/S: Viral. —Jim Vorel


37. V/H/S/2
Year: 2013
Directors: Adam Wingard, Gareth Evans, Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Jason Eisener, Eduardo Sánchez, Gregg Hale
Your taste in the V/H/S series will likely depend on which entry has your personal favorite segment, but the first two are relatively neck and neck. At the very least, this one contains what might be the single best segment in the entire series, Eduardo Sanchez’s “A Ride in the Park.” Without giving everything away: It involves bicyclists, zombies and helmet-mounted GoPro cameras, which help give us a perspective we’ve never really seen in horror while deftly avoiding the question of “Why would anyone be filming this?” There’s still some not-great segments—really the ideal V/H/S would be a compilation that takes only the best segments from each entry to create a really solid horror anthology. One has to wonder if Viral killed this series for good, or whether they’ll eventually act like it never happened and release a straight-up V/H/S/3 one of these days. —Jim Vorel


36. The Burrowers
Year: 2008
Director: J. T. Petty
The Burrowers qualifies as an entry both in the “underground monster” subgenre that is home to Tremors or The Descent and the “Western frontier horror” subgenre that gave us Ravenous and Bone Tomahawk. This one is sort of like a mashup of all the above—a group of settlers in the American old west begin to suffer losses from some kind of marauding monster, so they set out on an expedition that reveals a race of subterranean, tunneling beasts that use toxins to incapacitate their victims before consuming them at their leisure, spider-style. It’s a lean, mean sort of horror thriller, which makes the most out of its stark western settings and delivers some admittedly icky looking monsters. The presence of veteran character actor Clancy Brown lends a little gravitas to a story that also attempts to make itself an allegory for brutality in American imperialism, but it’s the solid performances and director Petty’s understanding of how to work within his own limitations that makes The Burrowers work better than most indie horror period pieces. —Jim Vorel


35. The Blair Witch Project
Year: 1999
Directors: Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick
Where Scream reinvented a genre by pulling the shades back to reveal the inner workings of horror, The Blair Witch Project went the opposite route by crafting a new style of presentation and especially promotion. Sure, people had already been doing found footage movies; just look at The Last Broadcast a year earlier. But this was the first to get a wide, theatrical release, and distributor Artisan Entertainment masterfully capitalized on the lack of information available on the film to execute a mysterious online advertising campaign in the blossoming days of the Internet age. Otherwise reasonable human beings seriously went into The Blair Witch Project believing that what they were seeing might be real, and the grainy, home movie aesthetic captured an innate terror of reality and “real people” that had not been seen in the horror genre before. It was also proof positive that a well-executed micro-budget indie film could become a massive box office success. So in that sense, The Blair Witch Project reinvented two different genres at the same time. —Jim Vorel


34. Stir of Echoes
Year: 1999
Director: David Koepp
Stir of Echoes is one of those movies where any discussion of it always tends to revolve around another film from the same year that received far more attention—in this case, The Sixth Sense. Because it had the misfortune of hitting theaters a month after M. Night Shyamalan’s ghost thriller set box offices ablaze, and because it contains several of the same elements—including a young boy who can communicate with the dead—Stir of Echoes was widely derided at the time as knowingly derivative, but that assessment was never really fair. Unlike The Sixth Sense, which leans so heavily on atmosphere and tension, Stir of Echoes is more of a true popcorn thriller, a supernatural whodunit that sees Kevin Bacon descending into frothing hyperactivity after having the doors of his perception thrown wide open during a botched hypnosis session. Today, the film’s growing fandom seems to be trying to reclaim its status as an underrated horror classic, but the reality is that Stir of Echoes is an effective potboiler full of themes that have been common in ghost movies for as long as we’ve had ghost movies, complete with the warm likability of Kevin Bacon. —Jim Vorel


33. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Year: 1998
Director: Steve Miner
It’s sort of funny how, despite the fact that Halloween 6 was dead-set in the middle of the decade, it’s H20 that feels so distinctly 1990s—just call it the “Josh Hartnett Effect,” I guess. But H20 is a bit of an odd beast: an attempt to bring the series back to its roots after it reached its peak of absurdity in Halloween 6, while also existing in the wake of the genre’s most famous meta-dissection in the form of Scream. The latter fundamentally changed the landscape of making a classical “slasher movie,” but H20 doesn’t quite seem cognizant of this, despite the script being punched up by Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson. As such, it felt a little bit dated even in 1998, although it does supply some suitably tense action—the shot of Laurie coming face-to-face with Michael after two decades is definitely a classic. With an ending that would be more fondly remembered if it wasn’t undone by the atrociousness of Resurrection, H20 attempted to bring the Michael and Laurie story full circle, and it does a decent job of it, despite not really having any of the most memorable “slashings” of the series. If anything, it feels just slightly undercooked in the “horror” department. With that said, you almost have to wish the Blumhouse Halloween was a direct sequel to H20, if only so it could be called Halloween H2020. —Jim Vorel


32. Friday the 13th Part III
Year: 1982
Director: Steve Miner
Also known as Friday the 13th Part 3-D, the third installment in the Friday the 13th series is impossible to ever fully extricate from its visual gimmick, coming as it did during the second great wave of 3D filmmaking. This makes for some particularly hilarious and ham-handed lampshading when you watch the film within a modern context, as this entry is constantly sending objects careening in unnatural ways toward the camera, whether they’re yo-yos, freshly rolled joints, speargun ammunition or parts of the human anatomy. The story picks up where the second film left off, with an unmasked Jason (no more sack cloth with one eye hole!) on a rampage. Notably, this is the film where he first acquires the iconic hockey mask that would come to define the character, but the film’s human characters are more of a let-down—especially the sad sack Shelly, who plays grisly practical jokes on people and then can’t understand why no one likes him. Still, Part III is packed with enough unintentional laughs that it’s certain to scratch a particular itch for ’80s slasher cheese. It hits all the slasher cliches with such boundless enthusiasm that at times it almost feels like a very early genre parody. —Jim Vorel


31. WolfCop
Year: 2014
Director: Lowell Dean
Wolfcop is full-on horror comedy, and delirious good fun. When an alcoholic small-town Canadian cop (Leo Fafard) gets cursed and turned into a werewolf, he retains all of his human faculties—above all, a respect for the LAW. Using his newfound werewolf superpowers, he opposes the local cabal of reptilian shapeshifters. Yep. That’s your film. It’s one of those carefully calculated, modern, indie horror-comedies that was created explicitly in the hopes of someday being labeled “cult classic,” but it does its job better than most, dipping a bit into the neo-grindhouse aesthetic of Hobo With a Shotgun, perhaps thanks to the gore effects, although it’s nowhere near as nihilistic. More than anything, you will undoubtedly feel a very genuine love for the utter ridiculousness of the premise. —Jim Vorel


30. Would You Rather
Year: 2012
Director: David Guy Levy
Would You Rather is the kind of somewhat reductive horror film that follows in the wake of the Saw and Hostel generation of the 2000s, where characterization is just an excuse to reduce each character to one driving motivation. Here’s our heroine—oh, she needs money to pay for the treatment of her sick brother, but what will she do to get it? Films like this are careful to not present any of the other characters as equally or more sincere in their desire than that protagonist, because that would introduce real moral ambiguity rather than the illusive choices here. Regardless, you’re not watching for the story—you’re watching to see what a bunch of strangers will be forced to do to each other in order to win a demented millionaire’s payday. ’80s horror icon Jeffrey Combs plays that villain, and although he’s clearly having a good time, there’s some spark of vitality to his performances in Re-Animator or From Beyond that has long since been reduced to paycheck-minded professionalism or self-parody of his earlier characters. If this movie had been made in 1985, perhaps it would have been a minor classic. Today, it’s just a fun B movie. —Jim Vorel


29. Mimic
Year: 1997
Director: Guillermo del Toro 
It’s so very tempting to want to write a revisionist history of a film such as Mimic, 20 years after it was initially released to mixed and negative reviews. Just about any film from Guillermo del Toro, after the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water, will attract a few impassioned defenses as a “lost classic” if you look hard enough—even this one, about giant, mutated cockroaches in the New York sewers who have evolved to blend in among humans. The truth is, though, that Mimic does not represent a fully formed del Toro as the auteur we know him today—the film contains some of his stylistic flourishes and fascination with the macabre, but he was by no means given free rein to create the derelict insect society that no doubt haunted his dreams. Mimic is a studio potboiler, and a decent little thriller, with a better than average cast who are let down by a script that feels like its first priority is appeasing the multiplex crowd, wrapping itself up in a neat little package in the process. If you let del Toro produce the same film today, it would surely have ended up as something far more esoteric, and ultimately more memorable. —Jim Vorel


28. Friday the 13th
Year: 1980
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
The Friday the 13th film that started them all. Years after two summer camp counselors are offed while they’re getting it on, a new group with similar extracurricular activities arrives at Camp Crystal Lake. Hack, slice. A pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon (one of the series’ many casting gems) gets lucky and then immediately gets an arrowhead through the back of the throat. Bummer. It’s a competent and formative slasher flick, though it barely resembles the series it spawned, in ways both positive and negative. Its impact, however, can’t be argued, and it’s the film most singularly responsible for properly kicking off the slasher boom of the ’80s. Jason makes only a brief, but extremely memorable appearance. And the ending reveal is among the most shocking in horror history. —Jeffrey Bloomer


27. Simon Killer
Year: 2012
Director: Antonio Campos
Simon Killer is a disorienting film to an American viewer. It asks us to follow along with Simon, a young American man living in Paris following some kind of devastating breakup, and observe his daily life. It doesn’t explicitly ask us to empathize with Simon, and yet it doesn’t really have to. He is the central character; the lens through which we perceive this gritty urban Paris. We watch him video chat with his mother. We watch him live a sad, lonely life. Empathy is almost inevitable, and that’s just the point where we start to learn that perhaps Simon and his sociopathic tendencies don’t quite deserve it. But by that point, as Simon finds himself wrapped up in a criminal enterprise with a stripper girlfriend and the blood begins to flow, our feelings are likely to be conflicted. If anything, one is likely to leave the film feeling a little bit ashamed for ever seeing life through Simon’s eyes at all. Ultimately, he’s not quite Henry from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but there’s an uncomfortable suggestion that perhaps he just might be someday. —Jim Vorel


26. Friday the 13th Part 2
Year: 1981
Director: Steve Miner
In the days before producing half a dozen sequels to any successful film was an automatic given, Friday the 13th Part 2 likely felt slightly less cynically calculated than it does now, looking back. It’s about as prototypical a slasher movie as you can possibly offer as an example of the genre, benefitting from the established mythology surrounding “Jason, the little boy who drowned in the lake” laid down in the first film, and especially in its shocking ending. Jason appears here for the first time as your central antagonist, fully grown and suitably deranged. This is pre-hockey mask, you must recall, although I’ve always found the alternative—a sack cloth over his head with a single eye hole—to be considerably more disturbing a look for a slasher villain. Seriously, how the hell does he see anything? Part 2 is held in high esteem by most Friday the 13th fans for its still (more or less) realistic tone, unconventional characters (especially the wheelchair-bound Mark) and arguably series-best final girl, Ginny, who manages to outsmart Jason in a thrilling conclusion that is referenced regularly for the rest of the series. It’s not the most stylish or purely entertaining of the Friday entries, but it’s probably the most foundational. —Jim Vorel

25. Maniac
Year: 2012
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Maniac is a rather impressive reimagining of the 1980 exploitation horror film of the same name, an attempt to take some grindhouse material and redress it in a modern skin, equal parts shocking and thought-provoking. Elijah Wood gives a transformative performance as the killer, Frank Zito, even though you almost never see Wood’s face, given that the entire movie is filmed from the killer’s perspective—yes, the entire film. Rather, the audience hears the running background noise of his madness as he mutters to himself and stalks his female victims. Be warned: The violence of Maniac is difficult to watch for even seasoned horror vets, and the constant POV shot of the killer’s perspective immediately makes the audience feel both guilt at their complicity and sick at their solidarity with the killer. Some will call it overly gratuitous in terms of its brutality, but the film is so assured in its artistic aims that it’s difficult to hold to the criticism. Set to a score of alternating, Carpenter-esque synth and classical/opera music, Maniac is an arthouse gore film if there ever was one. —Jim Vorel


24. Child’s Play
Year: 1988
Director: Tom Holland
Child’s Play is one of those late ’80s gimmick slashers where it’s all too easy to feel as if you’ve already seen the film, without actually having sat down to watch it. Killer doll, very cheesy, plenty of one-liners, right? Well yes, and no. The original (and pretty obviously best) entry in the Child’s Play series is the most serious-minded (at least slightly) and grounded of the movies, and it goes out of its way to humanize its iconic killer Chucky—or the spirit within him, that of serial killer Charles Lee Ray—more than one might expect. If you’ve never seen a film in the series, ask yourself this: Did you know that the plot of Child’s Play is technically all about voodoo? Because it is. In the end, though, its greatness and inherent watchability boils down to the charms of the wonderful Brad Dourif, who found in Chucky the vessel he needed to become a genre legend forevermore. Like Robert Englund did with Freddy Krueger, Chucky becomes the most beloved aspect of the series because Dourif’s voiceover just oozes charisma and character—he’s more alive than any of the flesh-and-blood characters in this series could ever be. It’s just one of those sublime moments of perfect casting—it’s easy to imagine that no one would remember the Child’s Play series today if that one aspect had been different. —Jim Vorel


23. John Dies at the End
Year: 2012
Director: Don Coscarelli
Your ability to withstand the absurdity of John Dies at the End will depend almost entirely on if you’re able to tolerate nonlinear storylines and characters who, woven together, tax the lengths of the imagination. An oftimes crude and farcical combination of horror, drug culture, and philosophical sci-fi, it’s a film you won’t entirely grasp until you’ve seen it for yourself. Central is a drug known as “soy sauce,” which causes the user to see outside the concept of linear time, existing at all times at once, similar to the alien beings from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Also appearing: phantom limbs, an alien consciousness known as “Shitload,” a heroic dog, Paul Giamatti and an evil, interdimensional supercomputer. No drugs necessary—John Dies at the End will make you feel like you’ve already ransacked your medicine cabinet. —Jim Vorel


22. Grabbers
Year: 2012
Director: Jon Wright
A surprisingly well-acted Irish/British indie sci-fi horror flick, Grabbers is unabashedly goofy but wholly professional and charming in spades. The story follows an alcoholic police officer who has to face a new threat to a sleepy seaside community when octopus-like aliens begin emerging from the sea and killing townspeople. These “Grabbers,” as they’re quickly dubbed, have only one weakness: Human blood is fatal to them if it’s over a certain percentage alcohol. Therefore, to combat the monsters and make themselves unpalatable, the police and townspeople have an obvious choice to make: Get totally hammered and grab a bunch of weapons. That may sound rather close to the summary of a direct-to-video movie by The Asylum, but Grabbers is surprisingly intelligent, witty and well-written in such a way that it easily escapes a fate in DVD bargain bin hell. —Jim Vorel


21. Zombieland
Year: 2009
Director: Ruben Fleischer
It seems like there’s a certain amount of blowback against Zombieland these days. Not among the general audience, where the film is still fairly well-liked, but among the horror and zombie geeks and “purists” who don’t seem to consider it legitimate enough as a zombie film. I’m not sure why that is, in a genre where Shaun of the Dead is rightly hailed as the cream of the zombie comedy crop. Zombieland was certainly inspired on some level by the former, as it moved the action to the USA and brought together survivors who were anonymous to each other rather than a circle of friends, as in the tradition of Night of the Living Dead. Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus is the type of character we hadn’t seen in a zombie film before, even in the comedies: Somewhat neurotic, not particularly well-equipped to fight, but brainy and resourceful enough to get by on his own, he presents an entirely different mold of survivor. Of course it’s Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee who really steals the show as a short-fused drifter on a seemingly pointless quest to find the world’s last box of Twinkies. Featuring zombies that are legitimately threatening, it tows a near-perfect line between comedic (but gory) violence and character-driven humor. And after an abominably long wait, the sequel is finally percolating as well. —Jim Vorel


20. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2
Year: 1988
Director: Tony Randel
Hellbound is a somewhat divisive sequel among horror fans, but we can all at least agree on one thing: It’s much, much better than any of the approximately 57 additional Hellraiser sequels that followed, most of which will make you wish the Cenobites were gouging your eyes out with their rusty hooks. It’s actually a more ambitious, somewhat less intimate film than the first Hellraiser, greatly expanding upon the mythos of the series as Kirsty must journey to the hellish dimension of the demonic Cenobites to oppose an evil doctor whose dreams of power transform him into a Cenobite himself. The lovely Ashley Laurence returns as the protagonist, along with a young, emotionally disturbed girl who is adept at solving puzzles, which almost gives it the feel of a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel such as Dream Warriors. The Cenobites themselves get a little bit watered down from their nigh omnipotence in the original film, but the settings and effects are great for the meager budget and do as good a job as anyone could reasonably do of translating the twisted vision of Clive Barker to the screen. —Jim Vorel


19. Paranormal Activity
Year: 2007
Director: Oren Peli
Here’s a statement: Paranormal Activity is the most wrongly derided horror film of the last decade, especially by horror buffs. That’s what happens in the wake of massively successful overnight success, and immediately derivative, inferior sequels: The original gets dragged down by its progeny. The original Paranormal Activity is a masterful piece of budget filmmaking. For $15,000, Oren Peli made what is probably the most effective “for the price” horror movie ever released, surpassing The Blair Witch Project in terms of both tension and narrative while pulling off incredibly unnerving minimalist effects. Yes, there are some stupid, “I’m in a horror movie” choices by the characters, and yes, Micah Sloat’s “get out here so I can punch you, demon!” attitude is irritating, but it’s calculated to be that way. Sloat is a reflection of the toxic “man of the house” attitude, a guy who would rather be terrorized than accept outside help. Meanwhile, Katie Featherston’s realistic performance as a young woman slowly unraveling is a thing of beauty. But beyond performances, or effects, Paranormal Activity is a brilliant case study in slowly building tension, and in raising an audience’s blood pressure. I know: I saw this film in theaters when it was still in limited release, and I can honestly say I’ve never been in a movie theater audience that was more terrified. How can I tell? Because they were so loud in the moments of calm before each scare (the most dead giveaway of all: when a young man turns to his friends to assure them how not-nervous he is). This was just such an event—there were actually ushers standing at the entrance ramps throughout the entire film, just watching the audience watch the movie. I’ve yet to ever see that happen again. Deride all you want, but Paranormal Activity scared the hell out of us. —Jim Vorel


18. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Year: 1988
Director: John Carl Buechler
You can almost imagine the pitch meeting for Friday the 13th: The New Blood. A bunch of studio execs are sitting around a table. “But we’ve DONE these Jason movies,” says one. “What can we possibly do that we haven’t already done?” The room falls silent. A nebbish guy stands up and tentatively says the following: “What about psychic powers?” And the room bursts into applause. Because that’s what this fun, exuberant entry in the series gives us—an otherwise archetypal female protagonist who is set apart by her Carrie-esque telekinetic abilities. Just that one change allows for the application of a fresh coat of supernatural paint to the Jason Voorhees slasher primer. Jason is at his indestructible best in this entry, completely unstoppable and boasting what may be the best overall design of the series—from behind, you can actually see his exposed spine and bone structure, making it clear the Voorhees is more or less a murder golem at this point. The last 20 minutes are excellent, as blonde psychic Tina uses her nascent powers to battle Jason in a variety of locales, peppering him with housing nails before stringing him up with lightbulbs and setting him ablaze. It’s marred only by a dopey conclusion that seems out of place with the rest of the film. Other than that, the only entry in the series with a bigger, better body count is Part VI: Jason Lives. —Jim Vorel


17. A Quiet Place
Year: 2018
Director: John Krasinski 
A Quiet Place’s narrative hook is a killer—ingenious, ruthless—and it holds you in its sway for the entirety of this 95-minute thriller. That hook is so clever that, although this is a horror movie, I sometimes laughed as much as I tensed up, just because I admired the sheer pleasure of its execution. The film is set not too far in the future, out somewhere in rural America. Krasinski plays Lee Abbott, a married father of two. (It used to be three.) A Quiet Place introduces its conceit with confidence, letting us piece together the terrible events that have occurred. At some point not too long ago, a vicious pack of aliens invaded Earth. The creatures are savagely violent but sightless, attacking their prey through their superior hearing. And so Lee and his family—including wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe)—have learned that, to stay alive, they must be completely silent. Speaking largely through sign language, which the family knew already because Regan is deaf, Lee and his clan have adapted to their bleak, terrifying new circumstance, always vigilant to ensure these menacing critters don’t carve them up into little pieces. As you might expect, A Quiet Place finds plenty of opportunities for the Abbotts to make sound—usually accidentally—and then gives the audience a series of shocks as the family tries to outsmart the aliens. As with a lot of post-apocalyptic dramas, Krasinski’s third film as a director derives plenty of jolts from the laying out of its unsettling reality. The introduction of needing to be silent, the discovery of what the aliens look like, and the presentation of the ecosystem that has developed since their arrival is all fascinating, but the risk with such films is that, eventually, we’ll grow accustomed to the conceit and get restless. Krasinski and his writers sidestep the problem not just by keeping A Quiet Place short but by concocting enough variations on "Seriously, don’t make a noise" that we stay sucked into the storytelling. Nothing in his previous work could prepare viewers for the precision of A Quiet Place’s horror. —Tim Grierson


16. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter
Year: 1984
Director: Joseph Zito
Had the producers of the Friday the 13th series never decided to officially return Jason from the dead as a superpowered zombie in series highlight Jason Lives, then The Final Chapter would actually stand out all the more as the most perfect synthesis of the Friday the 13th formula, complete with a fittingly grisly end to the series antagonist. As is, it’s still one of the very best entries, consistently ranked near the top by fans for its characters, kills and an outstanding Jason performance by uncredited stuntman Ted White. It’s the film that gives us a young Corey Feldman as Tommy Jarvis, the inventive little boy who becomes the closest thing that Jason ever attains to a human arch-nemesis, and the source of his eventual undoing. Jason himself is near his best in The Final Chapter, having become gradually more and more powerful as the series continued—here, he has no trouble at all bursting through bolted doors in a single motion. And of course, no mention of The Final Chapter is complete without acknowledging the presence of Crispin Glover as the neurotic “Jimmy,” whose spastic dance sequence has passed into slasher film legend as one of the genre’s most awkwardly hilarious moments. —Jim Vorel


15. Berberian Sound Studio
Year: 2012
Director: Peter Strickland
Playing with reality and fantasy, the literal and the subconscious, Berberian Sound Studio will understandably be compared to the work of David Lynch. But even if it’s not as startlingly original as that director’s finest films, the movie does offer a quietly building sense of unease as we realize that something isn’t quite right about this recording studio. Maybe it’s the charlatans with whom Gilderoy has to work. Or maybe it’s something else, something inside this closed-off man that he’s never quite acknowledged before. Ultimately, Berberian Sound Studio may be yet another psychological character study about the ways in which life and art intersect. But when it’s this genuinely upsetting and confidently executed, who can resist one more trip through a house of mirrors? —Tim Grierson


14. American Psycho
Year: 2000
Director: Mary Harron
There’s something wrong with Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale)—really wrong. Although he writhes within a Christopher Nolan-esque what-is-a-dream conundrum, Bateman is just all-around evil, blatantly expressing just how insane he is, unfortunately to uncaring or uncomprehending ears, because the world he lives in is just as wrong, if not moreso. Plus the drug-addled banker has a tendency to get creative with his kill weapons. (Nail gun, anyone?) Like anybody needed another reason to hate rich, white-collar Manhattanites: Mar Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ is a scintillating portrait of corporate soullessness and disdainful affluence. —Darren Orf


13. 28 Weeks Later
Year: 2007
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
28 Weeks Later is an often interesting, often scary, often powerful and often frustrating film for zombie/horror genre geeks. As a sequel to 2002’s supremely influential 28 Days Later, it’s a partial success. It does a wonderful job of transplanting that film’s nihilistic, hopeless streak of terror and what one person is willing to do to survive—especially in the masterful opening scene, where Robert Carlyle’s character abandons his wife while fleeing from zombies in a soul-crushing chase across the fields of England as tears of guilt stream down his face. On the other hand, the film’s true main characters, his children, aren’t nearly as interesting—nor is the collection of military suits who have locked down England in the post-Rage virus cleanup. The film also violates one of the unwritten rules of zombie cinema, which is, “There shouldn’t be a ‘main zombie.’” In this case, when Robert Carlyle’s Don becomes infected and escapes, it hurts the story’s ability to be legitimately suspenseful, as we know the kids aren’t in any real danger during any of their encounters with the infected, because zombie Don is still unaccounted for. If the audience knows that the script will require this one infected person to be present for a conclusion, then it robs all the other infected of being perceived as legitimate threats. Still, despite all that, 28 Weeks Later is well-shot and full of shocking, gritty action sequences. It’s not without its flaws, but certain scenes such as the opener are so powerful that we’re willing to forgive a lot. —Jim Vorel


12. The Clovehitch Killer
Director: Duncan Skiles
Life in small-town Christian America can have a stultifying effect on a person, sucking out all personality and vitality, replacing all individual identity with better living through dogma. In The Clovehitch Killer, director Duncan Skiles replicates this bait-and-switch through cinematographer Luke McCoubrey’s camera. The film is shot stock-still, the camera more or less fixed from one scene to the next, as if affected by the vibe of routine humming throughout its setting of Somewhere, Kentucky. Almost none of the characters we meet in the movie have a spark; they’re drones tasked with maintaining the hive’s integrity against interlopers who, god forbid, actually bother to be somebody. Caught up in this dynamic is Tyler (Charlie Plummer), awkward, quiet and shy, the son of Don (Dylan McDermott), a handyman and Scout troop leader, which brings no end of unexpressed consternation to Tyler as a Scout himself. On the surface, Don looks and acts like an automaton, too, with occasional hints of humor and warmth in his capacity as father and Scoutmaster. Beneath, though, he’s something more, at least so Tyler suspects: The Clovehitch Killer, a serial killer who once tormented their area with a horrific murder spree long completed. Or maybe not. Maybe Don just has a real kink fetish and keeps rope around for fun in the bedroom. Either way, fathers aren’t always who or what they appear.

Horror movies  are all about the squirm, the nerve-wracking build-up of tension over time that, done properly, leaves viewers crawling out of their skin with dread. In The Clovehitch Killer, this sensation is wrought entirely through craft instead of effects. That damn camera, motionless and unstirred, is always happy to film what’s in front of it, never one to pan about to catch new angles. What you see is what it shows you, but what it shows you might be more awful than you can stomach at a glance. This is a devilish movie that does beautifully what horror films are meant to—vex us with fear—through the most deceptively simple of means. —Andy Crump


11. Castle Rock
Year: 2018
Director: Various
Castle Rock is easy to love if you’ve already given yourself up to Stephen King’s brand of campfire story, with all the hokey chuckles and midnight palm-sweating that comes with it. I know I have—I just finished enjoying King’s latest, The Outsider—which makes me a prime target (though, I suspect, not the only target) for Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason’s Hulu original series, based on King’s mythos. Michael Uppendahl directs the solid pilot, which pushes artistry and literary fidelity into its compellingly sketched mystery, and the hooks only sink in deeper over the rest of season one. The plot and environment (because one is inevitably entangled with the other) use the stories of Stephen King as their knitting fiber, intertwining both meta- and textual characters and themes into the afflicted town of Castle Rock (home of Cujo and The Dead Zone). Along with It’s Derry and the oft-abbreviated Jerusalem’s Lot, Castle Rock makes up the Bermuda triangle of fictitious Maine haunts that King keeps coming back to. King’s work loves a polluted system, and towns work just as well as prisons or hotels. The atmosphere works because the series’ thematic and artistic construction do each other plenty of favors. For example, the show treats religion and the supernatural as forces that aren’t necessarily on equal footing, but are certainly enabling each other, like a father pushing his child higher and higher on the swing set. Which is which never stays the same. There’s misguided righteousness, dangerous excitement, and legitimate goodness caught up in the battle for Castle Rock’s soul, which is an exciting spin on the conventional Exorcist-like binary questioning of faith. —Jacob Oller


10. Southbound
Year: 2016
Directors: Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath
Tricksters and demons, vengeful spirits and serial killers, the hope of salvation and the lingering presence of Satan: These are the things that anthology film Southbound is made of. The film has a single vision but is built on a wide variety of grim and ghoulish horror tropes, all the better to satisfy the hungers of even the most niche genre connoisseurs. Best of all, though, the wild variations from one section of the picture to the next enhances rather than dilutes the viewing experience. It helps that there are common themes that run across the film—loss, regret and guilt make up a repeated refrain—and that the sum of its parts adds up to an examination of how people unwittingly architect their own suffering. But Southbound is first and foremost a work of velocity, a joyride through Hell well worth buckling up for. —Andy Crump


9. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Year: 1986
Director: Tom McLoughlin
It’s a bit of a sleeper pick, but one that has become more defensible over time as its stock grows—of all the Friday the 13th movies, the most purely entertaining entry falls right in the middle of the series: Part VI, Jason Lives. A near perfect amalgam of everything we love about mid ’80s era slasher movies, it’s an expertly balanced melange of jump scares, goofy characters, comic ultraviolence, spooky settings and gratuitous titillation. Tommy Jarvis from The Final Chapter returns as a grown man after the disappointing and confusing fifth installment of the series, unable to accept the fact that Jason is actually dead. Naturally, his attempts to make sure end up resulting in Voorhees actually reanimating as a truly undead killing machine for the first time, and we’re off to the races. Jason stacks up a truly absurd body count in this entry, dispatching minor characters and cannon fodder with the greatest of ease and stylish panache. The film winks at the audience quite a bit, critiquing their taste in tawdry slashers even while it delivers one of the most fun, vibrant examples of the genre from the mid-’80s. It’s self-aware in all the best ways, because its awareness never stops it from giving the paying audience exactly what they came to see. —Jim Vorel


8. Baskin
Year: 2016
Director: Can Evrenol
It is telling that the single scariest image in Baskin emphasizes creeps over carnage. It’s a shot of a boy standing alone in his living room, illuminated only by the static glow of his family’s television set, which has inexplicably turned itself on in the middle of the night. Nothing about the scenario is overtly terrifying—at least until he shuts the TV off—but it is memorably real in a film where it’s difficult to distinguish what is and isn’t imagined. Grand guignol-level spectacle where every character in the frame is streaked with viscera? That’s one thing. Domestic peculiarities that invoke nocturnal aberrations, though, are another thing entirely. The film evokes the artistic sensibilities of both Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento with its lurid color palette, but it carves a gore-streaked path all its own. —Andy Crump


7. Honeymoon
Year: 2014
Director: Leigh Janiak
The cool thing about horror is that if you just have the vision, you can make something like Honeymoon with no more resources than an empty cabin and a few weeks of spare time. The film only has four actors, and two of them barely appear, leaving everything on the shoulders of the two young stars, Rose Leslie (Ygritte from Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadway. This is the right decision to make: If you’ve got a few solid, young actors, why not let the film just become a statement of their talents? The story is extremely simple, with a newlywed couple going on their honeymoon in a remote cabin in the woods. When Bea, the wife, wanders away one night and has some kind of disturbing event in the woods, she comes back changed, and it begins to affect both her memory and sense of identity. The next hour or so is a slow-burning but well-acted and suspenseful journey for the two as the husband’s suspicions grow and the warning flags continue to mount. By the end, emotions and gross-out scares are both running high. —Jim Vorel


6. The Canal
Year: 2014
Director: Ivan Kavanagh
This indie Irish horror film announces Ivan Kavanagh as a serious talent and remarkably skilled director—it’s the kind of film you might watch on a streaming service with zero expectations, only to be completely blown away. Nominally a “ghost story” of sorts about a man who discovers a century old grisly crime that occurred in his house, it’s actually much more of a psychologically intense minefield—the sort of film that Polanski would have made, if there actually were ghosts in Repulsion. Combining elements that remind one of The Shining’s superb sound design with the surrealist, red-and-blue color palette of a film by Dario Argento, it is impeccably put together and beautiful to look at. The story, unfortunately, gets just a little bit too literal and wraps things up a bit neatly in the last 15 minutes, but the movie crafts an extremely effective web of dread and genuine fear through its entire runtime. Here’s hoping that we see another horror film from Kavanagh at some point. —Jim Vorel


5. I Saw the Devil
Year: 2010
Director: Kim Ji-woon
I Saw the Devil is a South Korean masterpiece of brutality by director Kim Ji-woon, who was also behind South Korea’s biggest horror film, A Tale of Two Sisters. It’s a truly shocking film, following a man out for revenge at any cost after the murder of his wife by a psychopath. We follow as the “protagonist” of the film makes sport of hunting said psychopath, embedding a tracker in the killer that allows him to repeatedly appear, beat him unconscious and then release him again for further torture. It’s a film about the nature of revenge and obsession, and whether there’s truly any value in repaying a terrible wrong. If you’re still on the fence, know that Choi Min-sik, the star of Park Chan-Wook’s original Oldboy, stars as the serial killer being hunted and turns in another stellar performance. This is not a traditional horror film, but it’s horrific in terms of both imagery and emotional impact. —Jim Vorel


4. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Year: 2010
Director: Eli Craig
Let’s face it, hillbillies and their ilk have been getting the short end of the pitchfork in movies since the strains of banjo music faded in 1972’s Deliverance. And whether due to radiation (The Hills Have Eyes) or just good old determined inbreeding (Wrong Turn and so, so many films you’re better off not knowing about), the yokel-prone in film have really enjoyed slaughtering innocent families on vacation, travelers deficient in basic map usage skills, and, best of all, sexually active college students just looking for a good time. But fear not, members of Hillbillies for Inclusion, Consideration & Kindness in Screenplays (HICKS)—writer/director Eli Craig has your hairy, unloofahed back. His film, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, answers the simple question: What if those hillbillies are just socially awkward fellows sprucing up a vacation home and the young college kids in question are just prone to repeatedly jumping to incorrect, often fatal, conclusions? Think Final Destination meets the Darwin Awards in a film that is extremely funny and big-hearted but also doesn’t skimp on the violence. —Michael Burgin


3. Hellraiser
Year: 1987
Director: Clive Barker
The head villain/eventual hero (there’s a sickening number of terrible Hellraiser sequels) behind Clive Barker’s Hellraiser franchise is the Cenobite Pinhead, sent from the pits of his own personal hell dimension to drag you down into the depths with him. Where he tortures you. For eternity. All because you opened a fancy Rubik’s Cube. Pinhead has zero remorse, looking you dead in the eye as he delivers a deadpan promise to “tear your soul apart.” Oh yeah, and they’re indestructible. Personally, it turned me off to puzzle boxes forever. As in his fiction, Barker’s obsessions with the duality of pain and pleasure are on full display in the film version of Hellraiser, an icky story of sick love and obsession. —Rachel Haas


2. Let the Right One In
Year: 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Vampires may have become cinema’s most overdone, watered-down horror villains, aside from zombies, but leave it to a Swedish novelist and filmmaker to reclaim frightening vampires by producing a novel and film that turned the entire genre on its head. Let the Right One In centers around the complicated friendship and quasi-romantic relationship between 12-year-old outcast Oskar and Eli, a centuries-old vampire trapped in the body of an androgynous (although ostensibly female) child who looks his same age. As Oskar slowly works his way into her life, drawing ever-closer to the role of a classical vampire’s human “familiar,” the film questions the nature of their bond and whether the two can ever possibly commune on a level of genuine love. At the same time, it’s also a chilling, very effective horror film whenever it chooses to be, especially in the absolutely spectacular final sequences, which evoke Eli’s terrifying abilities with just the right touch of obstruction to leave the worst of it in the viewer’s imagination. The film received an American remake in 2010, Let Me In, which has been somewhat unfairly derided by film fans sick of the remake game, but it’s another solid take on the same story that may even improve upon a few small aspects of the story. Ultimately, though, the Swedish original is still the superior film thanks to the strength of its two lead performers, who vault it up to become perhaps the best vampire movie ever made. —Jim Vorel


1. The Shining
Year: 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick 
Stephen King famously hates Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of his novel The Shining, which is difficult to understand until you actually read King’s original book, whereupon things become much more clear. Kubrick, ever the mad genius, largely rejected the emotional core of King’s story because he saw within the bones of The Shining an opportunity for a journey into the heart of visually and sonically inspired terror that few films have ever come close to replicating. Unlike in King’s novel, Jack is never treated with any kind of sympathy or pathos in the eyes of the audience—he’s a creep from the very first moment we meet him during his job interview, and he only gets worse from there, with the implied threat of his physical violence toward Danny and Wendy hanging over every scene like the sword of Damocles. His madness is alluded to masterfully through some of the most iconic visual and especially sound editing in cinema history—few horror films, or any film in general, has ever used sound as unnervingly as The Shining. Go watch The Witch, and the aural comparisons are obvious. This movie, like The Exorcist, seeps into your bones. It becomes part of your DNA and stays there, infecting every perspective you have on the horror genre for the rest of a lifetime. It’s a monumental film. —Jim Vorel

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